San Francisco: Tourist Style
Whether you want to cruise the Castro, check out a museum, or party at one of the legendary gay bars, the tiny town by the bay is packed to the brim with tourist treats to explore and enjoy. If you're planning a getaway, take a look at some fantastic tips from OutTraveler.com first.
Originally published on OutTraveler.com
By Ed Salvato
Some visitors leave more than their hearts here. During World War II, the Pacific Fleet discharged homosexuals in San Francisco, helping make the city the gay capital it is today. And what a gay capital it is! San Francisco still reigns as the most gay-friendly, gay-popular, and gay-integrated destination in the country, if not the world. Castro and 18th streets may form a "gay four corners of the world," but you'll find gay women and men throughout the city. They're integrated in the city's political, financial and social life and power structure, and you'll see them living, working, eating, and playing quite comfortably in almost every part of town.
San Francisco is not so much a city as a collection of small villages. A 10-minute walk will show you completely different worlds; think, for instance, of the distinctions between the Castro and the Mission, or Chinatown and the Financial District -- each just a short walk from the other. This is part of what makes the city so charming to visitors and makes you want to come back time and again.
By all means, no gay visit would be complete without a visit to the Castro. Though you’ll see more and more straight couples with baby carriages, a stroll through this area is enough to warm the heart of gay and lesbian visitors. The Castro Theatre is the area's most cherished landmark, site of the annual SF Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. At night, patrons from bars and restaurants spill out onto the street.
A walking tour called Cruisin’ the Castro offers a historical perspective on how the gay community took root in San Francisco from the Gold Rush to the present.
But get out of the ghetto to explore San Francisco’s many other neighborhoods such as the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, SoMa (the area south of Market), Chinatown, Japantown, and the fancy Nob Hill.
Culture, art, and science lovers will relish all the exciting museums available for exploration. The stunning new California Academy of Sciences is an eco-friendly marvel. Its location in Golden Gate Park makes it an ideal starting point for an exploration of this urban oasis. Speaking of architecture, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMoMa, is known almost as much for its design as for its collection, but definitely stop in to check it out.
Local San Franciscans often complain about their limited bar and club options, but for tourists, there will be plenty to keep you busy. The options change literally on a daily basis, as many bars are popular on only one or two nights a week, and most of the clubs are single-night-of-the-week affairs. Check out some of our favorite spaces, but also be sure to check the local bar magaznes for up-to-the-minute listings.
The Castro has a fun assortment of tried-and-true nightspots, including the Bar on Castro, really hopping on weekends; the Café, which is a vibrant dance club popular with both gay women and men; and the Midnight Sun, the popular video bar. For a pre- or post-dinner drink, head to the Pilsner Inn, a tiny hole in the wall that gets packed. Women love Mecca, especially on Thursday, which is ladies’ night.
For more awesome gay sightseeing destinations and shopping recommendations when visiting San Francisco, view the entire article on OutTraveler.com here.
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Images courtesy of Getty